Proposal to cut Florida prison visitation hours withdrawn

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In a victory for prison reform groups, a proposed rule to cut visitation hours in Florida prisons was withdrawn after much public outcry.

The Florida Department of Corrections had been trying to cut prison visitation hours since February, which upset the families of many inmates.

The Florida Legislature's Joint Administrative Procedures Committee ordered the FDC to start over because the rule process took longer than the 90 days permitted by law. 

Lakey Love with the Campaign for Prison Reform, said it's a major victory for families of inmates.

"Humans are family oriented people, which means that they will find a family if they're not given access to their own family," Love said. "And what a family behind bars is, is a gang."

The Department of Corrections denied the assertion that public testimony was responsible for the rule being withdrawn saying in a statement, "Public testimony did not delay the rule's implementation. We welcome further comments as we move forward with implementing the new draft."

Barney Bishop with the Florida Smart Justice Alliance said he believes the push to reduce visitation is a result of staffing shortages at the FDC.

"Without having enough staff you can't do these visitations and some of the other things they need to do on a basis that makes it safe," said Bishop.

The FDC says it plans to re-submit the rule, but with election day less than four months away, prison reform advocates said it's likely dead on arrival.

"Once November comes all of this will be out of play anyway because we'll have a new governor, and we can hold it over their head," said Love.

The Poor People's Campaign said it's currently working on legislative initiatives to increase prison visitation hours. The group hopes to announce its ideas next month.